Friday, July 12, 2013
Chinese and Western Values Towards ParentsMany students in China struggle with what seems to be a conflict between Chinese cultural values and Western cultures values such as those seen on American TV programs. The purpose of this article is not to confirm or deny any particular cultural values but rather to discuss these values so that readers might better understand the issues. Especially acute is the differences between child-parent relationships, values and actions.
In the U.S. children are encouraged to become independent at early ages and to become financially and “domestically” independent in their late teens or early 20’s. This leads to an attitude in the younger adult having little or no need to consult with parents about decisions and to feel little obligation to live with or near their parents. The parents and the children live independent lives and visit each other with some regularity but often live in far-away towns or cities.
In China, children at the age of 20, 30 and even 40 feel obligated to live near their parents, to consult them when making decisions and to care for their parents financially, emotionally and physically.
To a 20 year-old in the US the Chinese way seems strange and to a Chinese 20 year-old the western attitudes and actions seem cold, immoral and irresponsible. Yet to the Chinese 20 year-old there is an attraction to the freedom that western culture brings. To be sure civilization can only grow and improve if children choose some different values and norms than their parents accepted. But how can this be done when children have been raised to accept the values of a 5000 year-old culture? There are many benefits to the 5000 year-old culture but that same culture can become like a very long shadow that hides the sun.
In the case of 20 year-olds in any culture it is important for them to learn to think independently no matter where such thinking takes them. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to relate to parents but there are good ways of thinking and less good ways of thinking. In the Baha’i religion there exists a concept called independent investigation of truth and it is a requirement that all children learn to think for themselves and to choose a religious, philosophical or other way of living that they feel is true and then to follow that path. Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking skills are needed to consider such life-changing decisions. But choosing a religion or philosophy does not obviate the need to think of such issues in a deep way. These issues still need to be considered.
The issue of how to relate to ones parents is one such issue that needs consideration. To help in such consideration questions can be asked:
• What does my heart feel?
• Can I become myself (my own person) if I live for a long time under the shadow of my parents control?
• How can I show love to my parents and still be myself?
• What will happen if everyone lives in a certain way?
There are even deeper questions that may support an understanding of and a good decision about such issues such as:
• Why am I here?
• What is the nature of life?
• Where am I going?
• What is my unique role in the world?
These and other questions can help with such potential changes in the relationships among family members.